Do you remember Melissa Joan Hart's character in 1998's romantic teen comedy Can't Hardly Wait? She was the one who frantically -- and annoyingly -- ran around the party trying to get every last person to sign her yearbook. More or less, "Yearbook Girl" (they didn't even give her character an actual name) was modeled after me. (Okay, not technically because I graduated high school in 2002, but whatever. And I say "whatever" by forming the letter "w" with my thumbs and forefingers. Oh wait, that was from Clueless. Wow, my generation has quite the repertoire of romantic comedies.)
Anyway, I was that girl who scoured the halls of my high school looking for anyone and everyone, even if I didn't really know them, to sign my yearbook. I was not satisfied with just a signature, however. I wanted a little message in which you told me how much I meant to you, that we made class so fun, that I should keep smiling, never change, and here is my number, K.I.T. (That's "keep in touch" to those of you who are not yearbook aficionados.)
I needed those individual and lasting marks on the pages of my book so that I could remember my classmates forever. I didn't want to forget any of them -- not the girl I sat next to in math, not my teammate on the volleyball team, not the lunch lady who made my pizza, not the girl who passed me on the steps and sometimes smiled at me on the way to fourth period.
You see, I am very sentimental.
Perhaps that is why I turn into a fretful ball of nerves when we get to the end of the school year and my students ask me the question, "Will you sign my yearbook?" It creates enough pressure for me to say with confidence that it is one of the most difficult parts of my job.
How can I summarize, Student, everything you have meant to me over the past eight months in just one little yearbook blurb?
I know your reading level. I know your standardized test scores. I know your learning style. I know your top three multiple intelligences. I know your strengths. I know your weaknesses. I know the title of your favorite book. I know your hobbies. I know where you like to shop. I know what you like to eat. I know you are a Belieber. I know you would never admit that to anyone.
I know who your friends are. I know who your friends aren't and I wish you would stay away from them. I know your parent's divorce was really hard on you. I know you miss your brother who is fighting overseas. I know if you had your way you would not have to go to math class. I know you are good at illustrating flowers and rainbows, but struggle with drawing people. I know who your crush is. I know the name of all three of your dogs.
I know that you squirm whenever we have fundraisers because I know that your family does not have the means to give you even a dollar for you to contribute. I know you are really hungry in the morning because you haven't eaten since yesterday's lunch. I know you moved six times in the last four years.
I know that your favorite color is green. I know that you want to be a lawyer. I confiscated a note from you last week, so I know that your boyfriend just dumped you because you won't hold hands with him for more than three seconds. I know that that is the best thing that could have happened to you.
I have pored over your work to learn as much as I can about you. I have sat through meetings with other teachers to figure out how to motivate you. I have stayed up late and spent time away from my family working to figure out what I could do to help you to learn. I cried when I failed you, and jumped for joy when I watched you succeed.
I have put so much energy into you -- into being able to teach you to the best of my ability.
You have no idea how much you mean to me.
You have no idea how much I will miss you. You have become like one of my own children. I want you to be able to read what I write in 20 years and know that I truly meant it when I said that it was you who taught me so much, and it was you that made the difference in my life.
Yes, I will sign your yearbook. And I will never forget you.